Overcome Fear Of Death With Yoga

Fear of death is a strong negative emotion that lurks in the sub conscious of every body's mind but there is no simple logical hypothesis to address this fear. It is firmly rooted in the subconscious and does not easy to get away.

Fear of dying arises out of our survival instinct. We identify with our body and we want to live forever due to following reasons: -

  • Fear of the unknown.
  • Loss of identity.
  • Love of the body.
  • Separation from near and dear ones.
  • Love of property, money, titles and luxuries.
  • Fear of not worshipping God.
  • Desire for self preservation of consciousness.

All souls that are yet to be liberated have the fear of dying. But some people have got fear of death anxiety to such a level that normal living becomes difficult.

Yoga And Fear of Death

Patanjali Calls Fear of Death an Affliction

As per Sage Patanjali [Yoga Sutras 2.3], abhinivesha (fear of death or clinging to life) is one of the five kleshas or afflictions that lead to human suffering. Most people suffer from this fear to some extent. This fear dilutes your focus and interferes with your ability to experience the spiritual freedom that is the goal of yoga.

The fear of death is due to ignorance, or failure to realise the difference between what is permanent (true self) and those things that are not permanent (our ego and our physical body). It leads to total identification and obsession with one's individuality. Because of our attachment to our ego, this irrational fear of death (abhinivesha) arises; we panick at the thought of termination of this life and loss of our individuality.

Soul is Immortal.

In the second chapter of Gita, Krishna emphasises on the imperishable nature of the Atman. "The soul is never born, nor it ever dies; nor does it become on being born, For, it is unborn, eternal, everlasting and primeval; even though the body is slain, the soul is not." [Bhagwad Gita 2.20]. The eternal soul is never destroyed.

Life After Death

It is believed that when a man dies, the soul contracts and withdraws all the senses. The subtle body or sukshma sarira passes out of the physical body like a mist carrying along with it blueprint of a person that carries the impressions of present life and past lives.

Death as Considered by an Illuminated Soul

An enlightened person realises that repeated cycles of birth and death are part of evolution of the soul. He remains unaffected by the grind of life as he knows that these are characteristic of the body and not of the Self. He is also free from desires, which arises when one is identified with the body.

Rational View of Phenomenon of Death

If we think philosophically, having an unnatural fear of death is not rational, there are only following two options are possible: -

    There is no survival after death. Death results in absolute oblivion. Then, you won't be around to fear it. It would be the "blessed end of everything."

    There is survival after death Then only question can be whether a person goes to hell or heaven. Hence, if you are doing good karma there is no need to worry.

Another important question is, did we exist before we were born? If we were there before birth we will continue our journey in some other form. If we were not there before our birth, we will not be there after death and it does not matter.

Overcoming Fear of Death with Yoga

Practice Eightfold Path of Yoga

By practicing eight fold path of yoga, we can destroy the fear of death. We have to realise that soul is immortal and that only the body perishes at the time of death. Patanjali tells us that when the fluctuations of consciousness cease we have the experience of our true nature, which is our soul. The body is born, it grows, ages and dies.

Goal of yoga is to attain freedom of the soul which is infinitely more valuable than the comforts and possessions of life. A person living with fear dies again and again while still alive. Final freedom from fear comes from the meditation and attaining self realisation.

"A yogi or a sage or even a real aspirant has no fear of death. A desire less man never weeps when he dies. Your highest duty is to prepare for a peaceful life hereafter. Conquest of fear of death is the highest utility of all sadhana. The one main aim of all yoga sadhana is to meet death fearlessly and joyfully.".. Swami Sivananda

Overcome the Fear of Death, Accept Reality

As long as you keep running away from death you will continue to be defeated by it-and the day you stand up and encounter death, that very day death will leave you, but you will remain. Knowing death causes it to dissolve; then suddenly, for the first time, we become connected with life.

Perform Your Duties, Realise Your Mission in Life.

The time of death is not certain and it can strike unawares. Set your worldly and spiritual goals as per your temperament and capability. Therefore do your duty as per your Dharma, live life fully and enjoy life. Become a karma yogi and work tirelessly, do not postpone your work to tomorrow. Tomorrow may never come. Once a life is well lived, death should not be a reason to worry.

Experience the Love For God

Unconditional love is strongest positive emotion. A strong love for God realisation will help to overcome all obstacles including the fear of death.

Your Soul is Immortal

Know for certain that death has no power to annihilate your soul. The consciousness of the soul in each of us is part of the all-pervading Universal Consciousness and is the deathless witness to the changes of the body and mind. The Universal Consciousness is like an infinite ocean and we are like drops of water. We rise to the sky from the ocean, and again we fall into the ocean as raindrops.

Death is Unknown

If you ask the psychologists, they will say, 'Fear is relevant if you know what death is. If you have died before, fear seems relevant.' But you don't know death. You don't know whether it is going to be painful or whether it is going to be ecstatic. Then why are you afraid?

Work for Self Realisation

Vedanta asserts that Self-Knowledge, or Knowledge of Brahman, alone can rob death of its paralyzing fear. So long as this Self is not cognized and realized, life will be shadowed by death and the world we live in will be the world of sorrow and suffering.

Practice Meditation

The experience of entering death voluntarily is meditation, samadhi. Meditation is a means of confronting death whilst we are still alive. This is not just morbidity but can lead us to a deeper understanding of what we really are as human beings. It gives us an insight into the deeper implications of death and our nature as embodiments of an underlying Intelligence. Meditation gives us access to Reality. This is why Meditation is such an important part of Yoga and other spiritual disciplines. It gives us a glimpse into that aspect of us which is unchanging, or undying.

"Meditation is entering voluntarily into death, and the one who enters death voluntarily attains to life. That means: one who encounters death ultimately finds that death has disappeared and he is in life's embrace. This looks quite contrary-you go in search of death and come across life." .. Osho

Purify Your Karma

At death, everything of this world is left behind; only the impressions of all the deeds we performed in this life accompany us. The impressions of good deeds assure our higher destiny and give us freedom from fear of death, while the impressions of bad deeds take our soul downward. Therefore, a person must try to accumulate as many memories of good deeds as possible while living.

In the Katha Upanishad, the young boy Nachiketa asks:'O Yama, Lord of Death, dispel this doubt of mine. Does a person live after death or does he not?' Yama tells Nachiketa that "And verily, beyond the Unmanifest is the Supreme Purusha, all pervading and aloof from attributes. One who knows Him becomes free and attains Immortality." The cycle of birth and death continues till we attain salvation. "But he who has a correct understanding, who is ever pure and whose mind is well controlled, reaches that goal from where none is born again." [Katha Upanishad Section II, Part III (8)].

Live This Life

Living this life optimally is more important than the fearing the death. Human life is a golden opportunity for self realisation. So make the most of this life. Even if there is no after life, spiritual progress in this life will make the life worth living.

Free Yourself From all Attachments and Desires. Our attachments and desires keep us tied to our physical existence. To free ourselves from these attachments and desires, we need to cleanse ourselves by constant practice and practicing non attachment.

To understand the concept of death completely is very difficult. Developing of self awareness and the path of self realisation is a long journey. Therefore, seek blessings of a realised Guru who can shorten your learning curve and get over the fear of death.

  • Srimad Bhagwadgita English Translation by Gita Press
  • Bliss Divine by Swami Sivanada
  • Complete Works of Swami Vivekananada Vol-4
  • Yoga The Alpha And The Omega Vol-4
  • Nine Principal Upanishads from the teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati

› Yoga Way

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